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Opportunities & Obstacles for Dutch Industrial Design Services in Turkey

The industrial design sector in Turkey is, although relatively small compared to the size of the country, rapidly growing but still under sized, especially compared to the Netherlands. Turkey counts 17 industrial design faculties, some of which collaborate with foreign universities, e.g. the Faculty of Design Engineering at TU Delft, which is above par. ETMK, Turkey’s industrial design professional body founded in 1988, has approximately 350 professional individual members. It seems that the sector is made up out of some twenty or so agencies of average size (less than 20 FTE) that offers a fairly wide range of services (product design, graphic design, corporate design and packaging design and even architecture). Derived from their participation in international design events en design competitions it seems that Turkish design has a relatively low international profile. Particularly conceptual design, a traditional strength of Dutch design, remains strongly behind. Conversely, there is no warm feeling in Turkey about ‘Dutch Design’. Turkish hourly rates are as far as one can see, quite far from international standards including the Dutch. This drawback is largely compensated by the value of the label ‘Europe’. Turkey has, like most industrialized countries both a design award and an annual design event put into action.
Unlike „Dutch Design‟ Turkish design has no distinctive (brand) value. It‟s important to realize that design education in Turkey is very young and still in search for its identity which makes it hard to describe or recognize it. For instance, the Istanbul Technical University (ITU), one of the few recognized design institutions, offers design education only since 1993. Due to this „educational gap‟ and little promotion from the government, the awareness of the industrial design profession has been rather low in Turkey. Since the last decade things are rapidly changing which is partly visible in the growing promotion of Turkish design to raise awareness and attract international business.
It cannot be foreseen whether Turkish design as such will result in a clear (brand) profile but from the annual Istanbul Design Week shows clearly that Turkish design is:

  • powered by young and highly motivated people
  • rooted in local skills and unparalleled historical craftsmanship
  • growing trough cultural understanding and global awareness
  • highly creative and poetic (most products have a story)
  • also serving local needs and major city issues of Istanbul (e.g. traffic, recycling)
  • more often branding local products as “Designed in Turkey” (rather than “Made in Turkey”)
  • using design to bridge the gap between its rich and poor inhabitants
  • is indeed challenged by sustainable development and growing business relationships

A growing interest from abroad for the Turkish market design, especially from Italy seems to develop. Italian, American, British and German firms are already operating in Turkey.
The opportunities that arise for Dutch designers are broadly:

  • developing a new or unique proposition: compare proposition IDEO or frog on the Dutch market
  • provisioning of large scale (full service) capacity so large (r) assignments can be handled

Examples are (large) infrastructure projects such as public transport and sustainability, also areas where the Turkish government wants to large deployments. In this respect EU co-financed projects in which third-party design professional party with (international) experience could be interesting

  • The development of both opportunities, given the typical design characteristics of Turkish market, Turkish strategic partnership with a partner (bridge) is extremely important. Local options are available.
  • In 2012, Turkey and the Netherlands will celebrate their 400-year-old trade relations which is also an interesting platform for the development of Dutch design services in Turkey.